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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why I'm Not Moving Back to the USA

My thesis defense will take place exactly one week from today. As soon as that day is over, there is no longer anything requiring me to stay in this country. Still, I am not moving back to the U.S. and I don't have plans to do in the future.


As anyone that knows me (or reads this blog) would guess, I have long-term plans to stay in Germany. Although I miss my family and friends every day, I truly believe that my quality of life is much higher in Germany than it is in the U.S.

Why? Well, let me list a few reasons!

Employment
Germany's unemployment rate recently hit a record low, and while such figures are difficult to compare internationally, most sources agree that the U.S. market is not doing quite as well. I believe that this is especially true for university graduates.

I have previously written about how too many Americans go to college and how the U.S. could benefit by adopting a more comprehensive apprenticeship system. This is still something I strongly believe in, especially when I see so many of my college-educated friends doing administrative work that shouldn't require a college degree.

In Germany, on the other hand, less people choose to study. This means that the job market is less saturated with college graduates searching for the same kinds of jobs. This also means that I actually stand a chance at finding a job where I will use my Master's-level education and be compensated fairly for my educational background - something I do not think would happen if I were to move back to the U.S.

Health Care
Ever since moving to Germany, I have praised the country's public healthcare system. As a student, I only had to pay about 80€ a month for health insurance with less out-of-pocket fees than any American health insurance I have ever heard of.

When I start a full-time job, my health insurance fee will increase considerably, as it is calculated as a percentage of income. Currently this percentage is around 15% - half of which is paid by the employer and the other half by the employee.

Paid Vacation & Sick Leave
Americans work longer hours, get less paid vacation time, and retire later than Germans. Even though I have only worked part-time jobs in Germany so far, I have received at least 24 days of paid vacation per year at each of my jobs (24 is the legal minimum) and paid sick time (I just had to show a doctor's note if I am sick for over 3 days in a row).

The other important aspect to consider here is that German employers also expect their employees to take all of their vacation time. Nobody gets a bad reputation with the boss for taking a couple weeks off at a time because everyone does it! Meanwhile, due to the work culture in the U.S., over half of Americans don't use all of their vacation time (which is typically only 10 days per year to begin with). Yikes.

Parental Leave
The U.S. has no law guarantees full-time workers paid parental leave. Although I'm not planning on taking advantage of this anytime soon, I am happy knowing that I will never have to make the hard decision between family and career in the future as long as I stay in Germany.

Germany currently provides 12 months of paid parental leave (during which the parent receives about two-thirds of their total income) and this is increased to 14 months if each parent takes at least 2 months. Pretty nice, right?

Politics, public transportation, university tuition, recycling... this list could go on and on. But basically, it all comes down to the fact that I believe my quality of life will be higher in Germany than in the U.S. Will this change in the future? Maybe. But for now, I am very happy with where I am and where my future in Germany is headed.
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